Part I of the Power to Parent series focuses on the child-adult relationship as the context for raising children. Parents and professionals learn how this relationship is meant to develop, what can go wrong, why parents must matter more than peers, how to cultivate a context of connection, how to win back one's child if need be, and more. Parents and professionals are also introduced to discipline strategies that are attachment-safe and developmentally friendly.

Course Description

General information about the three-part Power to Parent series

This three-part Power to parent series delivers the best that developmental science has to offer to those who are our children's best bet - parents and those who support them. The effect of the material is to restore parents to their natural intuition as well as to their rightful place in their children's lives. The principles and dynamics apply to children of any age. Although some attention is given to the more perplexing problems of childhood, the general thrust of the course concerns issues and challenges facing most every parent.

This parent education series offers a complete approach to parenting. Rather than dumbing parents down with prescriptive solutions and superficial strategies, this series truly informs and educates so that parents can become the true experts in their children’s lives. The basic attachment and developmental needs of children are uncovered so that parents can become the answer to these needs. Challenging problems are explained is such a way that the root problems can be addressed.

Dr. Neufeld has had exceptional success as a parent consultant, working with thousands of families over the years. In this three-part series, he shares the insights and understandings that have changed the ways of countless of parents to the benefit of thousands of children.

The goal is to restore parents to their natural intuition

The prevailing assumption today is that the key to parenting is in knowing what to do. Since children aren't born with a manual, today's parents are becoming more dependent upon so-called experts for advice. Yet despite more experts and advice than ever before, parenting is actually becoming more difficult and contrived. The problem, according to Dr. Neufeld, is that the power to parent is slipping away. Parents were never meant to have the most important responsibilities on earth without the corresponding power to do the job. Yet this is the predicament of a growing number of parents who are losing their power to guide and direct their children, to shield and protect them, to nurture and fulfill them, and even to transmit their culture to them.

Parenting should be quite natural and instinctive. Like most deeply rooted instincts, however, the right context is required to `push the right buttons' in both parents and their children. Science has revealed this context to be the child's attachment to the parent. When a child is in right relationship to the parent, not only is the child rendered receptive to parenting but the parent is empowered to do the job. The key therefore to effective parenting lies not in what we do but in who we are to our children.

It is the role of culture to create and preserve this context of connection between children and their parents. Unfortunately, today's society has taken an economic turn and no longer serves this vital function. As the context for parenting is being eroded, parents are losing the natural power required to fulfill their responsibilities.

The antidote to our present predicament is to become conscious of attachment and to make sense of our children from inside out. In this way we can restore natural intuition and interact in ways that support healthy development. If we fail to do this we run the risk of becoming more reactive, or alternatively, becoming more contrived in our interaction as we follow the cues of advice-givers rather than finding our own intuitive path.

What parents need is insight, not skill

What we do is determined more by what we see than any other factor, including the strategies we have learned, the books we have read and the knowledge that we have acquired. The more accurate our insight, the more fruitful our interaction. When a child makes sense to us from inside out, a dance evolves that is natural, intuitive, effective and affirming for both the child and the adult. Developmental science has progressed to where it is now able to equip both parents and professionals with the insights that are necessary to understand our children and interact accordingly. This parenting series is founded on the firm conviction that when we are able to truly make sense of a child in a context of compassion, we will discover within ourselves a dance that corresponds.

What parents need is natural power, not manipulative tricks

Parenting is meant to be power-assisted. Like the cars we drive, many would be too much to handle without some power to assist us. When one is in the middle of driving and the engine cuts, managing a car designed to be power assisted can be a handful if not impossible. To manage children when our parenting power is insufficient is likewise daunting if not next to impossible. Yet millions of parents are attempting to do just that and not even aware that something is amiss.

We tend to take the power to parent for granted. There is little we can do with a child, however, that is not predisposed to attend to us, to look up to us, to depend upon us, to ask for help, to take the cues from us or to want to be good for us. These inclinations are not inherent in a child`s personality nor the result of skilled parenting. Rather, they are the fruit of a good working attachment to the parent. When the attachment is weak or lacking, these predispositions will be missing in a child. When this is the case, parents are rendered impotent and parenting becomes difficult, contrived and unnatural. Parental impotence is becoming a common affliction but rarely is it recognized for what it is. We are more likely to assume that we lack the necessary skill or that we have a difficult child. The most instinctive reaction when lacking natural power is to become more forceful. Unfortunately, applying leverage such as sanctions and separation to coerce a child into compliance will not only provoke resistance but also damage the very relationship that empowers us. Sadly, such is the state of parenting today. Only when we realize our true source of power will we do everything in our power to safeguard it. Unless we have our children`s hearts, we will be unable to fulfill our parental responsibilities. Once we have our children`s hearts, we need to hold on to them until our task is done.

The secret of the power to parent lies in children being in right relationship to their parents. The more difficult the child or the problems, the more this is true. It is this very relationship that is being eroded by cultural chaos, by competing attachments to peers, and by parenting practices that interfere with the development of attachment. To compensate for the loss of cultural wisdom we must become conscious of attachment and then parent with attachment in mind. The only salvation for parenting that is truly natural and intuitive is to work at attachment and let attachment work for us.

Today`s parents are not only shy of power but power shy. Power has become a dirty word, undoubtedly because so many of us have experienced its abuse. Yet the most important responsibilities on earth are impossible to fulfill without the power to do the job. And when we don`t have the natural power required to parent, we are tempted to resort to forcefulness and manipulation, as is the growing trend among many parents today. Examples of such coercive practices include the use of time-outs and the tendency to use what children care most about against them (often euphemized as consequences and sanctions). The kind of power that arises spontaneously out of a correctly aligned attachment relationship enables parents to be highly effective without needing to be punitive or coercive. We need to overcome our aversion to power in order to assume our rightful position in our children`s lives. The kind of power that should be eschewed is power devoid of corresponding responsibility.

The history & genesis of the Power to Parent series:

The Power to Parent series had its beginnings in a parent discussion group that grew out of popular demand from young parents who took Dr. Neufeld`s university courses on developmental psychology and parent-child relations. It gradually evolved into an eight-session evening course called Making Sense of Kids that was in high demand by parents and professionals in the Vancouver area for many years. Because of Dr. Neufeld`s widespread reputation, pressure mounted to film the course and make it available to others. The result is the Power to Parent series, a three part trilogy of eight session courses.

The primary objectives of the Power to Parent series:

The primary objective of our parent education is to equip adults to raise children with attachment in mind and with true maturation the end result. Our method is to make sense of children to the adults responsible for them. In providing the conceptual underpinnings to natural intuition, our goal is to restore parents to their rightful place in their children’s lives.

Suitability/Applicability

This course is suitable for both parents and professionals although it is addressed primarily to parents, with a focus on parenting. Usually one-third of the course participants work with families or children in one context or another. While the material applies equally to the school setting, the day-care setting, and to direct treatment venues, those involved in such settings may need to engage in some transposing of the material. This usually happens quite spontaneously and intuitively on the part of professionals.

The material and principles discussed are applicable to children of all ages. The focus of this course is on everyday parenting and everyday problems but the material applies even more so to the more challenging scenarios and problems.

This course can be used for professional development, personal growth, preparation for parenting and even as a primer or enrichment for grandparenting.

This course is a prerequisite for Helping Children Grow Up (Power to Parent II) and Common Childhood Challenges (Power to Parent III).

Topics/Objectives

Course objectives:

The primary objectives of this course is to help adults make sense of the children in their care and to equip adults to raise children with attachment in mind.

The course objectives include:

  • to provide the conceptual underpinnings to natural intuition
  • to restore parents to their rightful place in their children`s lives
  • to provide a working model of attachment that is applicable to children of all ages and to bring the dynamic of attachment to consciousness
  • to make parenting as easy and natural as possible
  • to increase the ability of parents and professionals to think critically with regards to the parenting literature
  • to interpret the science of relationship to those most involved with children and bring parenting in line with this science
  • to cultivate an appreciation of developmental design and an ability to work in harmony with Nature`s blueprint
  • to foster methods of discipline that are attachment-friendly and developmentally safe
  • to reveal common parenting practices that are harmful (e.g., time-outs, using what children care about against them, working the incident, using force and coercion, pushing independence) and provide safe alternatives
  • to provide a model of professional involvement that does not erode the parent-child relationship

Some of the many topics addressed include:

  • dealing with resistance and oppositionality in children
  • addressing the roots of aggression
  • preventing being replaced by competing attachments
  • disciplining in ways that do not divide
  • addressing separation problems and anxieties
  • raising children who are capable of deep and fulfilling relationships
  • dealing with kids who seek to dominate instead of depend on their parents

Course Outline

Outline for Power to Parent DVD Series

Session1: Why Children Need to be in Right Relationship to the Adults Responsible for Them

  • what makes a child easy to parent
  • how a child's attachment empowers a parent
  • the pitfalls of parenting without sufficient power
  • the difference between power that is natural and force that is contrived

Session 2: How a Child`s Relationship to the Parent is Meant to Develop

  • how the capacity for relationship is meant to develop
  • what keeps a child from developing a deep relationship to a parent
  • what causes a child to back out of attachment: the problem of defensive detachment
  • why time-outs and the silent treatment can backfire
  • how to address separation problems in children

Session 3: How to Harness the Power of Attachment

  • how to create a context of connection
  • why we need to connect before we direct
  • why we need to back out of the incidents and into the relationship
  • how to get an alpha child to relinquish control

Session 4: How to Keep From Losing a Child to Competing Attachments

  • incompatibility and the dark energy of attachment
  • what causes attachments to be incompatible
  • why attachment incompatibility is escalating
  • the true meaning of shyness and why it needs to be respected
  • how to create a working village of attachment
  • how to recognize a competing attachment
  • how to defuse attachment incompatibility
  • how to keep from being replaced

Session 5: How to Preserve (or Restore) the Ties that Empower

  • assume responsibility for fulfilling a child`s attachment hunger
  • take responsibility for the relationship
  • use structure & ritual to cultivate connection and protect the relationship
  • refrain from using discipline that divides
  • soften a child's heart in order to deepen the attachment and correct dominance problems
  • reclaim a child if necessary

Session 6: How to Deal with Aggression Without Disrupting the Connection

  • What moves a child to attack: the primary role of frustration and attachment
  • Three alternative outcomes to frustration that will keep a child from attacking
  • The three impediments to futility sinking in
  • How to keep a child's aggression from disrupting the vital connection
  • How to effectively address an aggression problem

Session 7: How to Deal with Resistance Without Sabotaging the Relationship

  • Why some children are compelled to resist and oppose
  • How counterwill is mistaken for willfulness
  • Seven steps to counterwill-proof a relationship
  • Defusing counterwill: nine ways to reduce pressure & coercion
  • Reducing counterwill: harnessing the power of attachment

Session 8: How to Use Discipline that is Attachment-Safe and Developmentally Friendly: Seven Strategies for Imposing Order

  • do all things in a context of connection
  • impose order primarily through structure & ritual, not through bossing a child around
  • aim to change a mind instead of behaviour
  • draw out mixed feelings instead of demanding self-control
  • aim for sadness when a child is up against futility
  • take control through changing the circumstances, especially when unable to change the child
  • script the actions of the immature to buy some time for the child to grow up

Registration Details

The tuition fee for taking The Vital Connection (Power to Parent I) through continuing education is $200. This includes a virtual campus student pass of four months to access the videocourse material as well as other supporting materials. If a personal copy of the DVD set is desired, the tuition fee is $275.

The tuition fees for live courses arranged by individual Neufeld Course Facilitators or by other agencies are set independently and may differ from course to course.

This course is a prerequisite for Helping Children Grow Up (Power to Parent II) and Common Childhood Challenges (Power to Parent III).

Course Coordinator

Neufeld Institute Faculty member Geneviève Brabant is the coordinator for this course.

© 2016 The Neufeld Institute
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